Table 1: Choices, Choices
|Always on.||Battery backup lasts 4 to 6 hours.|
|$45 a month, with limited long-distance minutes.||$30 a month, with unlimited long-distance.|
|Monthly 8-page phone bill with call log.||Immediate Web access to call log and voice mail. Immediate TV access to call log.|
|Superior call quality. The gold standard of phone service.||Better than a cell phone, but not as good as a POTS line.|
|911 service always available.||911 not available if the broadband network goes down.|
|Works with all home alarm systems.||Works with most home alarm systems.|
|Fax machine-friendly.||Fax machine-friendly, but make sure you plug the fax line into the U-verse/2Wire gateway, not a phone jack.|
|Source: AT&T and Light Reading|
The installation was more complicated than it had to be -- and I’m not alone in saying so. Could it be that phone service has suddenly become the phone company's weakest link?
As always with consumer communication services, take this tale with a grain of salt. Your experience with any new cable or phone service always depends on two things you can control -- where you live and what your home wiring is like -- and about 20 other things you can't control.
I made my U-verse Voice appointment for a June 5, 2009, installation, between 10 a.m. and noon. The installer arrived at 1 p.m., with no call ahead to say she'd be late. No worries. I'm not much of a lunch guy.
The U-verse Voice installer was polite and worked quickly. She also told me, politely, that if it were her, she would have just stuck with the POTS line. "POTS is a better phone service," she explained.
I must note here, that the installer was being sincere, helpful, and not the least bit condescending. Still, if U-verse Voice isn't very good, why did I have to hear it from the person that is paid to turn it on?
The installer was gone well before 2 p.m. I had dial-tone, but no instructions for setting up voice mail or anything like that. Would it be as simple as dialing my own phone number? Let's see…
I phoned my home number using my cellphone, and the home phone didn't ring.
I quickly dialed AT&T customer service and asked for an explanation. My wireless phone's call history notes that I called at 2:53 p.m. and was on the phone for 54 minutes. The call ended with AT&T's rep promising to send a different installer out to my house between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The second installer, Robert, arrived just before 6 p.m. He was quick, courteous, and not at all pleased with the previous installer's work. I'm still not completely sure what he did differently, but he left before 7 p.m. and the U-verse Voice service was fully working. He also told me how to turn on my voicemail and set my new greeting.
Should you get U-verse Voice? If you can be available for eight or nine hours (at home, on a weekday) and you enjoy meeting new people, I say go for it.
If not, try taking advantage of the upheaval going on at AT&T right now. The company doesn't like losing access lines and may prefer to cut you a break on landline charges rather than seeing you take a risk on U-verse Voice, then bail on AT&T services completely if it doesn't work out.
The question all customers should pose to their cable, telephone, and Internet providers monthly is: In order to keep my business, is there any way you can provide me the same service I have now at a lower price than I'm currently paying?
— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading